Thursday, November 2, 2023

Planning commission hears Downs site plan

The final site plan for the development at the Northville Downs property was presented to members of the planning commission for consideration last week.

Seth Herkowitz of Hunter Pasteur presented the developer's refined renderings of detached and attached single-family homes and detailed the timeline for the mixed-use project. While this meeting was expected to focus on conditions of the preliminary site plan approval and new elements of landscape, lighting and signage, Herkowitz noted that the presentation would need to be split over the course of two meetings due to the amount of content that he and his associates planned to present.

City Planner Sally Elmiger provided a point-by-point assessment of the conditions of the Planned Unite Development and preliminary site plan as approved by the commissioners on Sept. 7, 2022. 

The final site plan shows the log cabin situated in the river park on the west side of the daylighted river; it currently fronts River Street. If matching funds to relocate the cabin aren't raised by March 1, 2024 (with the developer committed to paying up to $125,000 toward relocation), or the log cabin is not removed from the project site by April 15, 2024, the development agreement permits the developer to demolish the cabin. 

The original offer to relocate the Farmers' Market on a portion of the Downs land during construction was deemed unfeasible by city administration and the task force. The city is looking for a new temporary location and can apply up to $300,000 committed by the developer (the first capture of brownfield funds) for the temporary site or use that allocation for the final site of the Farmers' Market. This condition has been met. 

The final site plan showed refined architectural details of the 38 single-family homes and the ways they vary in style and lot size to become an extension of the walkable city neighborhoods. Northville-based architects have designed these homes, which will be sold and built by Toll Brothers. 

Architect Greg Presley, of Presley Architecture, presented the “individuating” styling of homes that are patterned after many of the city traditional homes. The houses range from 2,000 to 3,100 square feet and most have a primary suite on the first floor.  

For single-family homes, buyers will be able to choose their style, elevation and colors. The builder said that, due to market demand, larger lots will be used for larger homes. 

One of the most significant changes is that the former three-story townhomes on the southern-most part will be reduced to 2-1/2 stories. The change to 2-1/2 stories means the height of these buildings is no longer a deviation from the city Master Plan. A ladder fire truck is no longer required to put out a fire in the 2-1/2 story structures, as it would have been if the building were three stories. 

Toll Brothers will also build 22 single-family attached homes west of S. Center Street, which are estimated to be ready for sale beginning in July 2025 and completed in October 2026.

The project team estimates it will take 12 months from the date of application to approve the permits on a local, regional and state level that will permit daylighting of the river that is currently buried under the Downs property. It's estimated 70 percent of the river will be daylighted in 2024 and the remaining 30 percent in 2025. This timeline is based on approval from the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority to permit funds for this purpose. The developer noted the river will capture 30,000 gallons of stormwater annually and the underground detention basin will provide additional infiltration at the site.   

The next meeting of the planning commission to discuss the project is set to begin at 6 p.m. Nov. 9 at Northville City Hall and Zoom. The developer will finish his presentation and take clarifying questions from commissioners, then the meeting will move into public comment regarding the final site plan application.